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Any relationship can have its up and downs, be fantastic, exciting and supportive and at the same time stressful, confusing and unpredictable!
Relationships within the LGBTQ+ community can have a wealth of extra complications too. Below are a few bits of advice we’ve found to work in different relationships, but the one thing that always, always comes up is
TALK TO EACH OTHER!
It can absolutely feel scary to be vulnerable at times and everyone can get nervous about how their partner will react to stuff, but in the vast majority of circumstances, talking about things can make a massive difference for the better.
On this page we’ve got tips on different relationships and lower down the page there’s advice if you’re worried about a relationship not behind healthy. Read on!!
Getting started - Gaydars and other myths
Aching over whether someone feels the same way as you is something everyone has gone through, but if you’re trying to suss out someone’s sexuality altogether that can be even more confusing. And weirdly, also a little bit exciting… but that’s love for you…
A lot of people talk about having a “gaydar” and being able to tell if someone’s gay, straight, pan, bi, whatever. It’s pretty much someone picking up on mannerisms, throw away remarks and tell tale signs. If you’re not out at the moment, or remember when you weren’t, you might have tried to drop hints here and there to suss out how people might react – it’s stuff like that that people who claim to have a “good gaydar” are probably picking up on. Either that or they’re making assumptions when someone doesn’t fit in with gender norms… but that’s a whole different discussion!
Unfortunately we’re not going to give you a magic formula to work out if you’re crush is straight or not. Mostly because there isn’t one! But we will give these tips…
- Working out if someone might be attracted to you is a lot easier, and far more useful, than trying to work out their sexuality. They might not have figured out their sexuality yet, but they’ll probably know if they’re attracted to you. Don’t make them work out their sexuality before acknowledging how they feel about you.
- Chat to this person online or through messages if it helps. If you pop the question though, have something else to do (like play a game or eat some food or something!) don’t end up with nothing to do but stare at the phone screen waiting for their reply.
- Spend time with them before jumping right in with big questions. Not only will it make it easier to talk about your feelings, but you… uh… get to spend time with them. Kind of a win-win.
- If you’re not out to them, its might be an idea to start there. It might make other stuff easier to talk about.
- If want to just ask them straight (no pun intended…) go for it! Just don’t do it in front of other people…
Getting Started - Online Dating
A lot of people end up turning to apps (yes, the apps you’re not supposed to be able to use until you’re over 18 but we’ll gloss over that bit…) The obvious advice would be not to use them, because they’re for made for people over 18 for a reason. But, if you choose to go down the road anyway, we’d far rather you do it safely and smartly, so here are a few tips:
A lot of messages on “dating” apps aren’t about dating at all, they’re about sex and hook ups. Sometimes you might get messages that are pretty… “intense”! If someone doesn’t even start with a “hello” that’s really not a great sign, and if things start explicit, it’s probably only going to going to get more explicit as things go on. We’re not saying there’s anything wrong with sex, but you’re a person, not a piece of meat – don’t let people treat like you are one!
So, none of this is meant to scare anyone, honest! But it’s just worth being smart about things when you can.
If you’re talking to someone online then keep in mind a few things:
- Only send messages within the app or site your in (try not to give out your personal number the instant you run out of free messages!)
- Be wary about photographs (Even without “dodgy intentions” people’s photos might look totally different!)
- Don’t give out personal info (like your address) that could be used to find you IRL
- Don’t send nudes! If you’re under 18 a nude selfie is distributing Child Pornography and you can get in a fair bit of trouble for it. If this is something you’re worried about we’d encourage you to head to www.thinkyouknow.org.uk where they can give more detailed advice.
If you do meet someone online and want to meet them in person, then be smart about that too! Even the most savvy of us can get Catfished! Here are a few things to do if meeting someone for the first time:
- Meet somewhere public
- Tell a trusted person where you’re going to be
- Plan to have a trusted person ring or text you to give you an excuse to leave “unexpectedly” if you have to
- Tell a trusted person that you’ll text or ring them an certain intervals to say you’re alright
- Take a photo of who you’re meeting (do it as a selfie together if it helps) and send that photo to a trusted person
- Keep “location services” on on your phone
Cheesy right? Honestly though, it just always come down to this. What’s the point of putting a ton of energy into pretending to be something you’re not? Sure you might get that “special person”, but then what? Keep putting in that energy to be something you’re not for ever? Never really know if they like you for you or for “you”? What happens to them when they realise you pulled the wool over their eyes?
Be yourself! It’s so much easier!
Is sex really important?
That was easy right?
Relate, a national charity that supports people around relationships, did a huge survey a couple of years ago to find out what was important to couples across the country. Sex was way down that list after honesty, communication and commitment. In fact only 58% of people in that survey thought sex was important at all.
Seems odd in a culture that is pretty obsessed with it, right? Sometimes, it can feel like there’s a lot of pressure to have sex, or that sex is a milestone to be reached as soon as possible. Sometimes idiots even say stuff like “how do you know you’re LGBTQ+ if you’ve not had sex?” Because they’re idiots.
But trust us, sex really isn’t that important. There’s no rush to have sex. There really, really isn’t. You have the rest of your life to enjoy and explore it to your heart’s content, take your time!
Whilst we’re on the subject – we know there’s a pretty big lack of any sex education about LGBTQ+ sex. It’s just not something that’s talked about, so we’re making a sexual health page to try and address some of that so if you’re hungry for knowledge head that way.
It might be that both of you need very different things. What makes one person feel loved and comforted might be completely different for another. That doesn’t make either of you wrong, just different, that’s all!
Here’s a few tips:
- Have that honest conversation about what physical stuff you’re both comfortable with. It might be a conversation you need to revisit every so often and each time, respect where that line ends up.
- Don’t put pressure on your partner to be more like you or make them feel guilty when they’re not. Respect how they are right now. That should be enough for both of you!
- There are lots of many ways to be intimate together without sex or going outside of someone’s comfort zone. The more you talk, the more of them you might find!
- If you choose to have an open relationship as part of what one of you needs, then make sure you are really clear about the boundaries and rules involved.
- Try not to take things personally. If your partner’s asexual, it’s not about you, or the way you look. They’re not rejecting you in any way. If you’re asexual then quite simply there’s nothing wrong with you! Asexuality is just part of who someone is.
Open relatioships / Polyamory
Open relationships are a decision to have, polyamory is part of someone’s identity (not a decision in other words!)
Relationships with multiple partners can be tricky, but like any other relationship, all it really comes down to is communication and honesty.
If you want to include others in your relationship and this is the first relationship you’re in, it might be tricky to figure out if you want the relationship to be open, or you’re realising out you might be polyamorous. Either way, take things slow and handle things delicately with your partner.
Here are our tops tips to maintaining a healthy relationship if there’s more than 2 of you in the mix:
- Talk, talk, talk, talk! You’re going to have to have upfront and honest conversations about rules and boundaries. (For example, a lot of couples make rules about what kind of contact is OK, where contact can take place, what info needs to be shared with each other, etc)
- If it’s an open relationship, it needs to be a MUTUAL decision and it needs to be made BEFORE anything happens. If one of you wants it more than the other it might be a sign things aren’t right and if one of you decides it’s an open relationship after being with someone else that’s DEFINITELY a sign things aren’t right!
- If one of you identifies as polyamorous make sure you both understand what that means to each other, and that you’re both equally happy that it’s a part of the relationship.
- A sign that things are all good is that you feel happy that your partner is happy. A sign that things aren’t so good is if you start to feel jealous about what’s making them happy. Again, all about having those honest and upfront conversations to keep things healthy!
- You may have an abundance of love to give in your relationship, but you can’t escape the laws of physics! You can only be in one place at one time, so make sure you’re giving appropriate time to everyone involved. There’s 2 types of polyamory and your style will impact the time you give to different partners: Some people have “Primary” and “Secondary” partners, and devote more attention to their “main” relationship, whilst others have “Relationship Anarchy” (which is a fun phrase!) where everyone is equal and gets the same attention.
- If sex is involved make sure you agree on some rules. Something called Polyfidelity comes into play here, where everyone involved agrees where they stand on the use of protection and on regular testing. If a new partner comes into the mix they have to agree to this too. Obviously we’d always encourage using protection (which you do anyway because you paid attention in sex ed class right? Oh, you didn’t get LGBTQ+ sex ed? All good, we made some here)
- And this last one can be a bit tricky… If you want others in the relationship make sure it’s because it will make you and your partner happy and because you have love to share, not because you’re not getting what you need from your partner or because you don’t feel loved or accepted enough. It’s not always easy to tell, and for every healthy and happy open (or polyamorous) relationship out there, sadly there’s one that’s there for the wrong reasons too.
That’s why this is another of those things where talking is really important! (Do we sound like a broken record yet?) Knowing what each other is comfortable with is really important.
Similar to asexual relationships, it’s important to remember it’s part of someone’s identity. If you’re partner’s aromantic then don’t take things personally or let yourself feel rejected. Being aromantic doesn’t mean there’s not a connection between you, just that ways of expressing it are different.
WHO CAN I TALK TO?
Relate – an entire charity that supports people with relationship concerns. They have an online chat you can use anonymously if there’s anything you’re worried about
The Brook – a great charity for young people around sexual health and relationships advice. All confidential.
The Mix – a massive site with info on virtually everything relating to young people, but with loads of relationship advice too
Scroll down if your worried a relationship might be going wrong…
It’s not always easy to know if you’re being exploited in a relationship. That’s pretty much how exploitation works – it’s behaviour that manipulates you into thinking a relationship is balanced, fair or “mutually beneficial”, when in reality it isn’t. Things don’t have to turn violent to be exploitative.
It can be really hard to take a step back from a relationship and see what’s sometimes going on, and that’s why often it’s friends, family, schools or colleges that get involved after spotting something they’re not comfortable with.
Being exploited can happen to anyone. Seriously. It’s worth repeating; ANYONE! No matter how smart, tough or “street wise” they are, and realising you’ve been exploited doesn’t make you daft or incompetent in any way.
WORRIED YOU MAY BE BEING EXPLOITED?
Sometimes it may feel you’re getting exactly what you want. It might involve stuff like sharing a few pics or having sex with someone, but it might involve any kind of intimacy in exchange for something. Arrangements like this are often exploitative; offering something in return for any kind of sexual activity or intimate stuff just isn’t OK. Sex and intimate stuff need to be something you mutually choose to do, not an arrangement or trade you come to or something you owe someone.
Whilst anyone can end up in an exploitative relationship, sometimes queer relationships can be quite vulnerable. It can be easy to end up feeling alone as a young LGBTQ+ person and depending on your circumstances, your dating pool might feel pretty small. Annoyingly there are some people out there who might try to take advantage of that. And sometimes that can turn exploitative. Here’s a few things to keep an eye out for (they’re from the ThinkUKnow site, which is a great resource to check out);
Loads of attention
We all want attention (!) but sometimes it can be a bit much… Are they always there after school or college? Do they message all the time? Do they give you your own space as well?
Lots of gifts
Gifts are great, but if they come thick and fast, or keep coming out of the blue then that’s a bit unusual. They don’t have to ask for anything in return there and then, but slowly they might make things unbalanced and soon you might feel you should do something in return.
Not wanting you to hang out with your friends
Most people are interested in who their partner is friends with. If someone is trying to separate you from your friends, saying they don’t like them or that they’re not good for you, and you should hang out with them instead, that’s a bit of a warning sign – it makes you more dependant on them which isn’t a good place to be.
Having big mood swings
Everyone has ups and downs – here we mean bigger swings. Things like shouting and arguing one minute and being all apologetic and intimate the next. If you end up feeling responsible for those mood swings, or responsible for calming them down, that can be a way of controlling someone.
Even with the best of intentions, promises sometimes get broken, but if they’re being used to get you to do something now that’s a bit of a worry too.
What you can do
If you worried then there’s 2 things we’d suggest
First – Go with your gut. If you have a feeling that things are a bit off, then don’t wait to find a check list and weigh up whether something is exploitative or not – trust that feeling. It can be really easy to “reason” yourself out of your worries and downplay them, but if you’re not feeling safe or in control then take action.
Secondly – We’d really encourage you talk to someone about your concerns. It can be anyone you know that you trust or there are a number of support organisations you can talk to as well that are listed in this section. If you’re worried about getting your partner into trouble then a lot of the organisations below allow you to talk anonymously and you can always just ask up front what their “confidentiality policy” is (which means what they’ll do with the information you give them).
worried about an abusive relationship?
Emotional abuse is when you are put down; made to feel stupid or unattractive or “less” than others. Sexual abuse is forcing or coercing someone into sexual activity they don’t want to do (have a look at the consent section above for more info). Physical abuse is hitting, slapping or otherwise injuring someone.
Looks black and white right? But it’s not always easy to know where you stand. Is shoving someone during a heated argument physical abuse? Is asking someone for sex until they “yes” sexual abuse? When does playful “banter” and mocking become emotional abuse? (Just so you know, for us; yes shoving is abuse, yes wearing someone down till they say “yes” is abuse, and well, if you don’t find it funny, it’s not “banter”, it’s abuse…)
There’s always strong feelings involved in relationships too. It can be incredibly difficult to acknowledge someone you love might also be abusing you. And incredibly difficult to know what to do if that is the case.
And, just so you know:
- It’s never “just that once”
- It’s never your fault
- It’s never something you deserve
- You can escape it
If you’re worried about being in an abusive relationship take a look at the “who can I talk to?” tab below or find someone you trust, a friend, parent, teacher, anyone and talk to them. The contacts below will all keep your confidentiality, and many you can use anonymously if you’re worried your partner might get upset that you’ve used them. You can always use a public phone to call the free numbers and local libraries can give you free internet access if you don’t want to use a home computer or device. Make sure you feel safe however you speak to someone.
Abusive relationships live off of silence and secrets. If you talk about it, you can destroy that silence and take those first steps to making things better.
WORRIED ABOUT A FRIEND?
This can be a tough position to be in and it might feel that, whatever you do, your friend could get hurt. It can be harder if it feels you’re breaking someone’s trust if they’ve told you something private.
Things may well get awkward and you may need to have a couple of conversations that are uncomfortable, but the impact that an unhealthy relationship can have is huge and they can be really destructive – it’s so important to speak up if you’re worried!
What can you do about your concerns then?
We’d always urge you to speak to an adult you trust. If that person’s a professional, like a teacher or support worker, they’ll know exactly who to get involved and should explain what will happen will happen with the info you’re sharing. They might have to share some of that info with another professionals to get advice and if it’s really serious, to decide if it’s something that needs the police involved.
If you choose to talk directly to the person you’re worried about then be prepared they may not see things the same way as you. In fact, if they’re still in an unhealthy relationship, they might not see it like that, so it may be a tough conversation.
They may feel you’re saying they’re weak or daft, even if you never say anything like that. They may feel you’re trying to take away something valuable to them. Be patient and kind, and let them know you don’t think anything less of them and it’s because they’re worth so much to you that you’re concerned.
Even if things “blow up” and it feels like things are getting out of hand, always remember you’ve acted out of genuine concern for someone.
WHO CAN I TALK TO?
ChildLine: 0800 1111
NSPCC helpline: 0808 800 5000
Manchester survivors – a really great organisation for male survivors of abuse
Change project – lots of work around domestic abuse for both victims and perpentrators
Gallop – any forms of violence towards lgbtq+ people including relationships
CEOP – great resources if you’re worried about something online
Relate – general relationship advice and online counselling
FPA – advice around sex and consent
The Brook – advice for young people about sex and relationships